The insufficiency of medicinal oxygen, the saturation of the intensive care units (ICU) and the lack of medicines have begun to suffocate the Bolivian cities of Santa Cruz and Cochabamba, the most affected by the third wave of coronavirus that plagues the country.

About 55 kilometers from the Cochabamba plant, in the town of Arbieto, is the Oxygen del Valle plant, which operates 24 hours a day and does “wonders” to try to supply the growing demand, its plant manager, Amílcar, explained to Efe.

This industry has the capacity to recharge 10 cylinders per hour, with a total of 240 per day, and sometimes it is complicated because the equipment requires at least one hour of rest, he said.

“But with all that, we were unable to supply the entire population. You can see it, there is a lot of demand, I don’t know how the other companies are doing, if they are attending or not, we are doing our job, but they are demanding too much from us,” he said.

At the gates of the industry, long lines of people and vehicles form every day from dawn, waiting to get at least one bottle of oxygen.

“I have already come about three times. The first time we were about 20 cars in the whole morning, it was bearable, but when the family requires enough oxygen and you don’t have a bottle per day, it’s already desperate, “Raúl, a person who had been waiting since dawn, told EFE.

This citizen regretted that the disease is now manifesting itself in a “more severe, more abrupt” way.


The situation is similar in Santa Cruz, the largest Bolivian city and the one hardest hit by the pandemic, where the endless lines in search of oxygen are compounded by the shortage of medicines and the saturation of ICUs.

This is the case of the Japanese Hospital, whose ICU has been overtaken by this third wave that is leaving health personnel “more stressed”, especially because younger people are arriving than in the two previous peaks, nurse Sandra Ríos told Efe.

“We did not think we would have so many young people in intensive care,” said Ríos, who also lamented the “collapse of the service” and the fatigue that haunts the workers.

Another problem is the shortage of drugs, especially sedatives such as fentanyl, midazolam and atracurium, which are rarely found in pharmacies or sold privately at very high prices.

These drugs are “essential” to manage patients with covid-19 “because they have to be sedated” in order to “recover the lung part,” explained Ríos.

Citizen Celso Pesoa is experiencing firsthand the lack of those sedatives that his wife requires, who contracted Covid-19 while pregnant and gave birth to a premature baby in the hospital.

Pesoa told Efe that in the first wave, an ampoule of these drugs cost about $ 2.5, while now they are charging $ 11 or $ 12, or even more.

“People do not have money and do everything they can to find these drugs so that their relatives do not die,” he lamented.

As happened in the first peaks of the pandemic, social networks have once again been filled with solidarity campaigns, requests for medicines and obituaries in several Bolivian regions, especially in these two.

In cities like La Paz and El Alto, the ICUs are full and there are people on the waiting list, but fortunately the dramatic episodes that Santa Cruz and Cochabamba are experiencing have not yet been seen.

The 11 ICUs at Hospital El Alto Sur are with patients who arrived last week, while there are another 17 in the hospitalization area and 2 more are waiting in emergencies for some space to be released in intensive care, its deputy medical director explained to Efe. , Roberto Carlos Aranda.

This health center coordinates with others to refer cases that it does not manage to attend and has also taken provisions so that its patients do not lack medicines or oxygen, he said.

The Association of Pharmacy Chains confirmed a few days ago the shortage of a score of drugs, attributed to the “lack of provision” by importers and laboratories, and assured that it takes the corresponding steps to avoid this situation.

The Bolivian government has announced that two tanker trucks with 20 tons of oxygen are heading to the country to supply the regions with the most needs.

Bolivia accumulates 14,226 deaths and 358,562 cases since March 2020.

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